When you look up in these two dictionaries (Collins, Cambridge) the verb ficher has meanings like to file, to put on file, to record. However, Google Translate has completely different definitions like:

  1. Faire pénétrer et fixer par la pointe.
  2. Faire.
  3. Donner, faire subir.
  4. Mettre.
  5. Mettre sur une fiche, des fiches.

This raises several questions:

  1. Why does Google Translate not mention meanings related to "to file" at all ?
  2. Why don't the other two dictionaries mention the meanings that Google Translate mentions, at all?
  3. Is the difference between the dictionaries due to homonymy or is "to file" just a derivation (as you penetrate the paper and fix it to the file) ?
  4. What meaning is the most common?


I did not notice there is a second tab in Collins dictionary, which displays similar meanings to Google Translate.

  • 1
    cnrtl.fr/definition/ficher vous donne, sous trois onglets, les différents emplois du verbe ficher.
    – Personne
    Commented Aug 31, 2021 at 5:27
  • 2
    Although it has improved over the years Google Translate is not a reliable tool and I personally think there is no point in asking on FL why GT does such ans such a thing. The same with why do dictionaries don't give all the meanings... (well, they don't, ask the people who made them, the answer in that case might be "money, money money" That being said, and if I understand your problem, mettre sur une fiche, des fiches means to file.
    – None
    Commented Aug 31, 2021 at 5:55
  • 2
    Did you give GT a chance by adding some context to the verb "ficher"? GT is not a dictionary, it's a phrase-translating tool. E.g. "Il a été fiché par la police".
    – Déjà vu
    Commented Aug 31, 2021 at 6:44
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    @Breakingnotsobad Actually it looks like Google Translate is trying to be both. You can see it lists definitions and gives examples like a dictionary, when you input a single word.
    – Xfce4
    Commented Aug 31, 2021 at 23:21
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    @Xfce4 Here is the answer I got from Google Translate support: By design, Google Translate's goal is to enhance communication of commonly spoken languages among people. i.e. to translate a conversation or a text; It is neither designed to serve as a dictionary nor to translate a single word - though it does do this task with a certain level of inaccuracy
    – jlliagre
    Commented Sep 1, 2021 at 9:13

2 Answers 2


Ficher can have several meanings but it is not a verb we would use very much except for the colloquial use.

1- The oldest and primary meaning of ficher is faire entrer par la pointe, it comes from Latin figere which means "to plant", "to fix". Its past participle is regular: fiché. It is not used much, I can't say why, other verbs are preferred to express that meaning (mettre, enfoncer...). It is the oldest but the least used of the three meanings. As said by @PatrickT the frequency of use depends on the working environment, some jobs will tend to use it more often than others. I never use it myself and I've only heard gardeners use it.

2- The second meaning of ficher is used more often than the previous one. It is derived from the noun fiche (a "file"), it means "to file". Its past participle is regular: fiché.

It is mostly used related to police work (or intelligence agencies in general):

  • Il est fiché par la police.

For everyday office work mettre en fiche is usually preferred to ficher

3- The most common use of the verb ficher nowadays is the informal one. It is used as a euphemism for foutre. There's already a very nice answer on this on FL. Its past participle is irregular: fichu.

The colloquial use of this word can be split thus:

  • colloquial for faire, travailler:
    Je n'ai rien fichu de la journée. (I haven't done shit all day)

  • donner, flanquer:
    il m'a fichu la trouille (he shit scared me)
    fiche-moi la paix ! (give me a break)

  • être indifférent/ne pas s'intéresser à quelque chose:
    je m'en fiche (I don't give a damn)

  • se moquer
    Il s'est fichu de moi parce que je me suis trompé (He took the mickey out of me 'cause I said something wrong)

After reading this you can notice that Cambridge only gives the primary meaning and Google Translate will give you a lot of separate words which don't mean much if not used in context. And as @Breakingnotsobad says in their comment "GT is not a dictionary, it's a phrase-translating tool."

  • Thank you. Is it possible that the meaning related to "file" might be coming from the oldest and primary meaning, as you make holes in the paper and "fix" it to the ring binder ?
    – Xfce4
    Commented Aug 31, 2021 at 22:40
  • 1
    @Xfce4 Yes, all these verbs share the same etymology, the Latin figere, although the actual ring binder came much later. Fiche started to mean token in the 18th century or earlier and that might be from where the file meaning comes from.
    – jlliagre
    Commented Aug 31, 2021 at 23:36
  • @jlliagre After I wrote the comment above I read your answer and saw you answered this question. Thank you.
    – Xfce4
    Commented Sep 1, 2021 at 1:54
  • 1
    Great answer. I personally use the first meaning very frequently, especially in the context of using tools to fix bikes, cars, things around the home, and even gardening. Perhaps if you live in a big city it's not as useful a word. I always took the third meaning to be a direct extension of the first: « rien à ficher » = "nothing to fit, i.e. nothing to do", similar to « rien à carrer ». Maybe it's regional. I grew up in Provence.
    – PatrickT
    Commented Sep 1, 2021 at 5:52
  1. Google Translate is not a dictionary. Nevertheless, mettre sur une fiche means precisely "to file". A collection of fiches is un fichier, i.e. a file.

  2. Despite the different wording, the Collins gives all meanings. The Cambridge only shows one indeed but I expect that most free online dictionaries are abridged versions of paper based ones, or only provide the contents of their smallest editions. If you want the meanings of a French word, better to look first at a French dictionary like the TLFi or the Robert, and then translate back to English from the various meanings reported by it. The TLFi gives three main meanings. https://www.cnrtl.fr/definition/ficher

  3. To file meaning is indeed a derivation of the Latin figere. You might also add fixer to the list.

  4. To stick is the less common. The remaining ones are all common, although nowadays, foutre regains the lead compared to its softer substitute ficher.

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